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Dawkins vs Lennox – Oxford University Debate

Melanie Phillips, writing in the Spectator, offers her thoughts on the second debate between John Lennox and Richard Dawkins; this one held at Oxford University Natural History Museum – Tuesday evening 21st October 2008.

Melanie Phillips asks – Is Richard Dawkins Still Evolving? and makes some pertinent points of her own.

Science and Values

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13 Responses to Dawkins vs Lennox – Oxford University Debate

  1. I have not been able to watch this debate, though I did scan those links.

    If this report is accurate – if Dawkins has stated that a serious case can be made for a deistic God – then one of the ‘unholy trinity’ has just been knocked off the chessboard. Completely.

    If one of the ‘lead atheists’ cedes that what we see in the universe can be attributed to a rational mind, and that this attribution has strength to it, the entire modern game plan of the New Atheists is compromised. Belief in God itself is ceded to be rational and reasonable – what comes next is arguing over the specifics. Or put another way, it’s negotiating terms of surrender.

    Mind you, I want to hear/read this for myself. The thought of Dawkins admitting the intellectual merit of even a deistic God would be nothing short of stunning to me. Maybe Bill Maher rubbed off on him.

  2. Even more jaw-droppingly, Dawkins told me that, rather than believing in God, he was more receptive to the theory that life on earth had indeed been created by a governing intelligence – but one which had resided on another planet. Leave aside the question of where that extra-terrestrial intelligence had itself come from, is it not remarkable that the arch-apostle of reason finds the concept of God more unlikely as an explanation of the universe than the existence and plenipotentiary power of extra-terrestrial little green men?

    Interesting. So the Expelled interview was not just a fluke.

  3. When pressed, even Dawkins can see the fallacy in atheistic thought. What an amazing article.

  4. Very interesting first debate. Dawkins held his own rhetorically, but logically was on the losing end more often than not. For example, Lennox pointed out that it is incoherent to hold that humans are nothing more than DNA and the associated chemicals and also hold that humans can “rise above” their genes to act freely. Dawkins replied that “of course” we can act contrary to our genes, of course we can (his example) use birth control while copulating (thwarting the biological purpose). It is easy to rise above our biology. What Dawkins doesn’t seem to realize is that the fact that we can act freely simply implies that humans are not just biological creatures, but that there is agency unexplained by physico-chemical considerations. It is easy to rise above our biology because biology is not all there is to us. That Dawkins misses this point is interesting, to say the least.

  5. THIS STATEMENT MADE BY DAWKINS IS FASCINATING:

    “A serious case could be made for a deistic God.”

    So now Dawkins may be essentially or potentially an IDer, since that’s the minimum one needs for that position.

    Based on my understanding that Intelligent Design does not infer who the designer is or focus on that question, but simply that something could have not arisen by chance, and needed an act of intelligence to bring it about. This Dawkins accepts in this statement:

    “Even more jaw-droppingly, Dawkins told me that, rather than believing in God, he was more receptive to the theory that life on earth had indeed been created by a governing intelligence – but one which had resided on another planet. ”

    I wonder whether he is now open to the possibility of inter-galatic seeding ( once seriously considered by Francis Crick).

  6. The statement above made by Dawkins reveals a very interesting truth about him and his kind. As I have said before they are clearly more political then scientific. Though his books claim to refute ID and religious Deism via science – in reality he knows that they do not. His book are written and appeal to those who have a social dislike for religion and ID. This is politics not science or even philosophy. Bottom line the car is out of the bag. Dawkins is smart enough to know better.

    He may have climbed mount improbable but it is still, nonetheless, mount improbable.

  7. ^ “cat” is out of the bag*

  8. Man, I want the audio to come out. I’ve read somewhere, and I can’t find the link now, that seemed to suggest Richard Dawkins said something more along the lines of, “A reasonable case can be made for a deistic God.” It’s close to the same thing, but I like the “A strong case can be made for a deistic God” better.

    Does anybody know EXACTLY what Dawkins said? If he said either of the above though, that’s quite counterproductive of him! lol At least he’s honest about it!

  9. According to a summary I picked up from talk.thinkingmatters.org.nz:

    “Dawkins started by saying it depends which god you are talking about. He said there were three types of gods:

    i) Einstein’s poetic metaphor.
    ii) The deist god. Dawkins said there was a “reasonably respectable case for a deist god”, but it was not one he believed in.
    iii) The thousands of other gods including Yahweh, Zeus and the Christian God.”

    If ‘reasonably respectable case’ is a quote, then yep – that’s quite a concession.

    I really want to get ahold of a transcript for this debate. Going by the summary, it sounds like Dawkins made other, deeper concessions as well. Lennox is quite an opponent.

  10. Thanks for the help! I’d like to get the transcript too. I think the quote you gave is what I had read somewhere too. I wonder if he meant that a close to respectable case could be made for a deistic god, or a reasonable and respectable case.

    Maybe I’m just being too picky, but I like to quote others the best I can. Otherwise people tend to think you’re quote mining, or taking things out of context.

  11. Just so everyone knows, Frost’s link seems to be from the 2007 debate. I’ve noticed a lot of people mistaking the 2007 debate with the 2008.

    As near as I can tell, the 2008 is not available yet. Audio/video copies are being sold, and as preorders at the moment. So, we may be waiting a bit.

  12. I guess it is. I did not realize there was a 2007 debate. Sorry.

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